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Josh

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Everything posted by Josh

  1. Exciting news: Martin Stayer and team are opening a new Tiki Bar/Restaurant not terribly far from the mothership. "Acclaimed Montrose restaurant launching new tiki-themed concept in 2019" on Houston.Culturemap.com
  2. Cristina and I spent our 13th anniversary at one of 2018's hot-spots. We arrived a touch early for our reservations, planning on a drink at the bar, but beware that there is really not much room for standing and drinking. Cocktails were great though. The Nancy Cakes (Johnny cakes with whipped butter and trout roe) have gotten a lot of press (and they're definitely good), but the lamb dumplings with crispy garlic were the star of the night for me.
  3. I was reminded of the goodness of W&M this weekend when a friend suggested it for dinner. I've gone for lunch in the past, and have always been happy I did. It isn't a cheap lunch, but their breads and pastas are top-notch, and should be your focus. For dinner, Cristina and I shared the pasta special of the day, duck confit stuffed pasta (I can't remember the name of the pasta, but it was kind of a fat tubular ravioli) in a sage butter, and the roasted carrot pizza. I've somehow never had a pizza here, but they do it right. Nice chew and char to the crust. They describe it as Neapolitan style, though I think it's a bit more substantial than that (no soupy center). My pizza came with thin slices of carrot, Fresno chile, and cilantro. The base used Point Reyes Toma cheese and a nice, rustic dukkah (that is, larger chunks of nuts, not super-finely processed). Great flavors and textures. Interesting cocktail menu, and a fairly extensive selections of wines by the glass. I didn't ask to see the full wine list, but apparently there is much more to choose from than what's on the main menu.
  4. Yet another recipe from Archana Mundhe's cookbook, "The Essential Indian Instant Pot Cookbook." Tonight was the chicken korma. I've made 5 or 6 recipes so far, and all have been really, really good. Like really good. Butter chicken, salmon tikka masala, saag paneer...all amazing. I originally came across her butter chicken recipe on Food52, and bought the book based on the results.
  5. Haven’t made it to Veracruz yet, but I can die a happy man having taken down 3 tacos at Valentina’s.
  6. You're traveling, and you need breakfast. If you're in NYC you look up a best bagels list. If you're in Houston, get yourself a breakfast taco or 3. This is not definitive, just my experience. For instance: I haven't yet eaten at 2 beloved taco houses, Brothers and Villa Arcos, both East of Downtown. The elites: Luna y Sol - You're not going to go wrong here, but my favorite is the chorizo and egg. Well-proportioned, great tortillas. Definitely Uber-able from or deliverable to downtown Hotels. Tacos Tierra Caliente - Is it a weekend? Wake up on the later side and get $1 tacos from my favorite truck and wash them down with a beer or Topo Chico at the West Alabama Ice House across the street. These things are the perfect size to crush 3 and not feel terrible about yourself and your life choices. The rest (all still really good): Tacos A Go Go: Good tortillas and fillings, but I get annoyed about how much filling there is. Generous to be sure, but I demand a balanced taco that can be eaten with 1 hand. Laredo Taqueria: You have to specifically order corn tortillas unless you want flour here. (Both are great). The barbacoa is delicious, and they have my favorite huevos Mexicanos here since they actually have some spice to them. Chiloso's Taco House: A Heights neighborhood favorite. Thicker, chewier than usual handmade tortillas. The egg and sausage (from Chappell Hill, TX) is my go to. Unos Pinches Tacos: Foul-mouthed name, but legit tacos, breakfast or otherwise. Dig the chorizo and the tocino here. Chilaquiles are killer too. El Rey: Yes, it's a chain with a drive-thru, but the tacos are tasty. I dig the Cuban one with eggs, black beans, and plantains. Only people who don't know (or aren't from Houston) would turn their noses up. Tacodeli: It's a Houston location of an Austin restaurant, so...you know. That said, their fillings are top notch, even if their tortillas are a damn shame. (Side note, if you're looking for fantastic breakfast tacos in Austin, it's Papalote that you want to line up at.) Please go somewhere else: Torchy's: Listen, once upon a time, when they were a lowly food truck, they may have been worth the hype. But those days are long past. These are tacos for people who don't know what tacos are. But if you're with someone who absolutely HAS to go to Torchy's, their queso is fantastic, so not all is lost. Taco Cabana: Chain with a drive-thru. Not great, but you're likely to run into a ton of these at sponsored events. No shame in taking a few down if you do.
  7. I couldn't agree more. I think the idea that you fight your way to the cutter and order your meal in the most difficult way possible helps people to feel like "real" New Yorkers. Well, this formerly real New Yorker is here to tell you that New Yorkers accept a lot of annoying stuff in the name of authenticity or whatever. I never really got it until I finally moved out of the city and looked back. But Katz's. Katz's is fantastic however you choose to have your smoked meat served to you.
  8. First off, I think Alison Cook is a fine food critic. She displays a deep knowledge of how Houston has evolved over the years, and (I think) tries to balance old and new in her rankings. Of course, we can all find something to criticize, and other knowledgable Houston critics like Culture Map's Eric Sandler certainly have. Houston's food scene moves quickly...7 of the top 25 restaurants in 2016 have either closed or undergone major conceptual changes (1 out of the 2018 Top 10 has already closed). The demise of the shockingly badly run Treadsack Restaurant Group took out 3 of the top 25 (Bernadine's, Hunky Dory, & Foreign Correspondents). Even with those changes, the faces behind the top cadre of restaurants has stayed fairly stable. 2016's #1 Oxheart has been successfully transformed by chef Justin You to 2018's #2 Theodore Rex. Chef Hugo Ortega's flagship Hugo's has dropped down from #2 to #13, but his rightfully acclaimed Xochi is the new #1. Chef Chris Shepherd shuttered his #12 restaurant, the beloved pan-everything Underbelly (which is now the steak-centric Georgia James), shifting the cultural ADHD of Underbelly to a smaller space across the street, moving up to #8 in the process. 2 deserving restaurants broke into the top 10 this year from lower spaces in 2016: The Heights' Locavore/Italian-ish stalwart Coltivare and Houston's finest sushi restaurant, Kata Robata. Now, let us gripe: I understand the impetus behind including a barbecue restaurant in the Top 10 in Houston. Chef Ronnie Killen's Killen's BBQ has been a mainstay on her list (he has a total of 3 on the 2018 list). I think, though, that with the recent opening of his 5th restaurant (Killen's TMX), people ought to start looking very closely at the consistency of the food at his flagship. Now, I have been blown away each and every time I've been there, but I can say the same of a place like Corkscrew in Spring, whose owners/pitmasters do not have to split their focus between several restaurants. I'm also very partial to Pinkerton's in the Heights as a brick and mortar, and the hot newcomer trailer, Willow's. Equally as important as barbecue to the Houstonian diet is Vietnamese, and although there are 7 at least partially Vietnamese places on the list, none has risen to the top. I would eat at Crawfish and Noodles over most other restaurants any day of the week, and it has earned its position in the pantheon of essential Houston restaurants. I defy you to eat a meal at Nam Giao and not fall head over heels in love with Vietnamese food. Ditto for the pho at Les Noodle. Shepherd's Underbelly sequel, UB Preserv, is great, with a fun "Tour of Houston" tasting menu, but pound for pound, his latest incarnation as a Mediterranean in the One Fifth space is the better restaurant. I'm shocked it wasn't listed at all in the top 100. I think there is room to push up quirky, neighborhoody restaurants like Nancy's Hustle (#24), Better Luck Tomorrow (not listed), and Nobie's (not listed) into the upper ranks. The last 2 are most definitely better restaurants than places like Bernie's Burger Bus or the sadly flagging Neapolitan pizza at Pizaro's. Ms. Cook has a love for Roost, in Montrose, but my visit was way, way less than revelatory. And I don't think it was due to poor execution, or chef's night off. I just think it's one of those longstanding places that is being graded on a curve for sentimental reasons. Put the much fresher and exciting Riel in its place. I was glad to see Kata Robata move up, but I think there's room for Zen Izakaya on the list for its authentic and very nicely executed menu, including excellent and varied sushi. I'm sure I'll think of other things as time goes on, but this is just a start.
  9. Ok, so you are close to a number of great places...I don't know what eater has to say, but here's my take: Dinner: Xochi for sure. You can't miss out on Hugo Ortega's cooking while in Houston. Nancy's Hustle is a short ride away. Get the lamb dumplings. Theodore Rex: if you can grab a spot, it's well worth it and a short cab ride away. One of my favorite (if not my favorite) places in Houston. Lunch: Hyunh is within walking distance and would be a solid Vietnamese lunch choice. Go for the rice paper wraps. For pho, you could venture sliiiightly further out and hit Pho Saigon. Near Pho Saigon (these are in the "Midtown" area) is Cali Sandwich, where the Cali special banh mi lives...my favorite sandwich in Houston. Ninfas on Navigation: The original and best Houston Tex-Mex. Get fajitas or tacos al carbon, queso, and a margarita. Andes Cafe: Great Central and Southern American food Seaside Poke: one of the better joints in town, run by people who actually know what they're doing. Phoenicia: Might also be a good breakfast spot. Lots to choose from. Conservatory Food Hall: A handful of food stalls including pizza, bbq, poke, among others, with a ton of craft beers on tap. Drinks: Public Services: Love this bar. Looks swanky but really isn't. Pastry War: Great mezcal-centric joint with a secret bar in the back called: Tongue-Cut Sparrow: kind of like Columbia Room I imagine. --- There are others...DM me if you have questions while you're here. I'm happy to direct and help however I can!
  10. Yeah, they really stepped in it. With so many great Tex-Mex joints in Houston, I see no need to go back to a place who is "proud" to serve Sessions.
  11. Yep. Can’t hop on board with that for the exact reasons you originally described.
  12. It has been my (nearly weekly) experience that Vietnamese and Cajun are 2 foods that absolutely SHOULD be paired.
  13. I've been back in Houston about 2 years now, and I have to acknowledge that the food scene here is so huge and varied that I could eat out somewhere different every night for a year and still not feel able to wrap my arms around it. So I'm hesitant to criticize this list too much, because honestly, I couldn't make a "better" one, whatever "better" means. But that's no fun, so I'll criticize anyway. Leaving off Theodore Rex makes absolutely zero sense. They have Justin Yu represented on the list for Better Luck Tomorrow (which is appropriate), but he's the most exciting chef in Houston in the past few years. T-Rex has to be on there. Nobie's would be a no-brainer for my list. I would rank Fadi's over Aladdin for Lebanese, though I like them both. Benjy's is certainly popular, but it's not a terribly unique place. I'd replace it with Local Foods. I can't imagine why Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts is on the list. It's good, and in my neighborhood, but is not even close to being an "essential" place to dine if you're in town. I get wanting to have a pizza place on there, but Pizaro's hasn't been consistently great when I've gone. Wouldn't be on my list. If you absolutely want a pizza place (& don't want a regional chain like Cane Rosso), I'd go with Pi Pizzeria. Inventive pies and great cocktails. Same locally-owned restaurant group as Lee's Fried Chicken, so no harm no foul. I am biased, coming from DC, but Houston is not known for its Ethiopian cuisine, so including Blue Nile is a head-scratcher. We ARE known for our Vietnamese community, so I'd add the amazing Nam Giao, and probably list Pho Saigon instead of Pho Binh (though I love both). I kind of want to put a banh mi shop on there too...either Les Givrales or Cali Sandwich. (Probably Cali Sandwich.) Sri Balaji Bhavan or maybe Shiv Sagar would be on my list in addition to Himalaya. Killen's is great BBQ, but there's room for another place, and I'd probably go with Pinkerton's. (Corkscrew is amazing, but I don't count Spring as Houston). Paulie's is a neighborhood institution, but I don't know that it's "essential" in the sense that it's a "don't miss" place in Houston. Mexican is well-represented on the list, but I'd consider Cuchara. I'd want a Cajun place on there, and while it may not be the "best" in Houston, The Boot wins my vote for solid food in a very Houston Ice House kind of location. Eight Row Flint might have to make it too as another example of a place that embraces the Ice House thing. ________________ Those are my thoughts for today. What an amazing assortment of places to eat & drink we have to choose from in Houston.
  14. Well, before I even read the list, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the author of the list lives in Dallas.
  15. I just read a great review of a bar not far from my house that serves Viet-Cajun crawfish on the weekends. I had them at the cook-off mentioned in the article and can vouch for the quality. In line with the themes discussed in the episode, the chef making this delicious Vietnamese-Cajun mashup is a "Houstonian of Iranian-Jewish and Mexican extraction."
  16. To Don’s port point, we enjoyed a bottle of 1937 port over New Years. My father-in-law received a number of ooooold bottles from an friend’s estate. The 1937 was even better than a 1965 we tried a couple years ago.
  17. And now the Vietnamese chef featured is opening her “Vie-jun” restaurant in Houston. Super cool.
  18. Funnily enough, after almost 2 years off H St, Big Board is the restaurant I miss the most. By the time I left, my beloved Boundary Road had gone through a number of changes and Liberty Tree was a shadow of its former self. Toki was always delicious and unattainable because of the wait. Maketto was...ok, maybe Maketto is my most missed, but BB is close! Big Board was a couple blocks from our house, and such a solid, dependable choice. Great beers too.
  19. Alison Cook has listed Roost in her Top 100 for a few years now, placing it at 29 in this edition. From reading about the restaurant, Chef Naderi introduces a new menu monthly, highlighting local and seasonal ingredients with little regard for staying in one particular "lane" of cuisine. Cristina and I had a quiet and pleasant dinner the other night. Top-line assessment: Pleasant enough to be a neighborhood fave, but in a sprawling food town like Houston, it would be tough to recommend traveling for a special visit. We started with 2 appetizers: the much lauded fried cauliflower with bonito and miso dressing, and the "bread service" of a Slow Dough giant (GIANT!) pretzel, with 3 spreads (marinara, pimento cheese, and furikake butter). The cauliflower was indeed tasty, reminiscent of takoyaki. The only thing I would say is that after a few bites, they became a little dull (as in, not sharp), and could've used some sort of acidic element to brighten things up (capers maybe? a squeeze of lemon? I don't know). The pretzel itself was massive, warm, buttery, and delicious. The spreads...eh. The marinara was totally off-putting in a way neither of us could put a finger on, but it went completely untouched. The pimento cheese was a totally straightforward take, without any noticeable spice. The furikake butter won out, mainly because it was butter. This dish seemed like an afterthought. I moved on to the "Country Captain" chicken - pan seared, along with deep fried wings, and topped with a vaguely curry-ish sauce with raisins. All in all a nicely cooked, but standard take on a Lowcountry classic. Cristina had fried quail served over black eyed peas and greens. I much preferred this dish, mainly for the delicious peas. Earthy and with just enough bite to them. We drank a South African Cab blend (2013 John X Merriman Stellenbosch) that played well with everything we ordered - medium bodied, with a good amount of earthiness that I enjoy. Roost has a small but nicely curated wine list and a number of local beers on tap. Given that the menu changes monthly, I think it's probably worth another look down the line, but for now I have it in my good-not-great category.
  20. I love every part of Spain, but I would agree with the initial suggestion to really spend a good amount of time split between 2 places. Tons to do, see, and eat in Barcelona. Don't miss out on nights of too much cava and jamon at El Xampanyet, and definitely squeeze yourselves into the chaos at Quimet y Quimet. San Sebastian should def be the 2nd spot, and is where I long to spend my retirement. Repeat visits have not lead to the shine wearing off. Amazing food all around and fantastic vibe. Make a reservation at Asadero Extebarri and rent a car to get out there. Lunch is probably the best way to do it. Otherwise, AirBnB an apartment in the city, and eat all around with the locals.
  21. It's neither hot nor humid as hell right now, but that can and will shift anytime within the next 12 hours to 2 months.
  22. Come to Houston, dude. Get in while the gettins good (and it isn't hot as hell).
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